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The Maybank Malaysian Open: Schwartzel can dominate once again

Charl Schwartzel, The Punter’s pick in Malaysia

"Having not played anywhere last week, Schwartzel should arrive fresh and raring to go and for my money, he’s the man to beat."

Steve takes a detailed look at this week's European Tour action from Malaysia, where he fancies Charl Schwartzel to get back to winning ways...

Tournament History
Dating back to 1962, the Maybank Malaysian Open has been co-sanctioned between the European and Asian Tours since 1999.

Venue
Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club

Course Details
West Course - Par 72, 7,000 yards. Stroke Index in 2011 - 72.58

Designed by Nelson & Haworth, the design team also responsible for Sheshan International - home of the WGC HSBC Champions events, the West Course has been the venue for the last three years. It was also the venue back in 2006 when Charlie Wi denied Thongchai Jaidee a hat-trick of event wins but it was completely remodelled after that renewal so an examination of the last three stagings is the way to go.

The fairways and rough are Seashore Paspalum and the greens, running at 10 on the stimpmeter, are Seaisle Supreme. Water is in-play on 13 holes and the fairways are described as undulating. For more on the course, see In-Play Tactics below.

Useful Sites
Course Site
Course Map
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast
Alternative Weather Forecast

TV Coverage
Live on Sky all four days - 6.00am on Thursday and Friday, 3.30am on Saturday and 2.30am on Sunday

Last Five Winners
2012 - Louis Oosthuizen -17
2011 - Matteo Manassero -16
2010 - Seung-yul Noh -14
2009 - Anthony Kang -17
2008 - Arjun Atwal -18 (playoff)


What will it take to win the Maybank Malaysian Open?

Accurate iron-play and great putting has been the key to success over the last three years, with neither distance nor accuracy off the tee appearing essential.

As is usually the case in this part of the world, with weather delays almost inevitable, patience is required.

Is there an identikit winner?
The last three winners here have all been top-class and the event before the reconstruction, in 2006, saw multiple winner, Thongchai Jaidee, and PGA Tour stalwart, Charlie Wi, fight out the finish.

In the last three years, the only Asian Tour players to finish in the top-five were David Lipsky last year and Kiradech Aphibarnrat in 2010. Expect the cream to rise to the top and the Asian Tour players to struggle to compete.

Is Jetlag a factor?
Not only have the world's best players dominated the event of late; they've done so in extraordinary circumstances...

Rory McIlroy traded at odds-on in-running two years ago before wilting over the weekend to finish third, just one week after completely imploding at the US Masters and Louis Oosthuizen won with ease twelve months ago, a week after losing to Bubba Watson in a playoff at Augusta, despite hardly any sleep.

Louis had made the trip from the States with his wife and family and after he'd won he revealed that the longest stretch of unbroken sleep he'd had in Malaysia before the Saturday night was four hours. He operated for the first three days in a trance and I still find it remarkable that he won.

Compatriot Charl Schwartzel also made the trip straight from Augusta but he coped less well. After taking the lead on day one with an opening 64, he returned on Friday and shot 11 shots worse.

With Rory and Louis performing so well after travelling from the States, the evidence suggests jetlag isn't an issue but I'd view playing the week before in America as a negative.

In-Play Tactics
Kuala Lumpur is not a catch-up course, Louis and Matteo were both placed third after round one and both where leading with a round to go. Oosty was also the halfway leader.

Given the ever-present risk of thunder in this part of the world, there is always the potential that the event will be reduced to 54-holes. Another reason to get off to a lightning-fast start.

If you're up like a lark and playing in-running, the toughest stretch of holes here are 11 through 15. The 16th is a drivable risk/reward hole with water all down the left-hand side and the 18th is long par five that only just averaged under-par last year.

Market Leaders

I imagine the sponsors were hoping for a stronger field now that the event doesn't immediately follow the US Masters but this year's renewal is weaker than usual.

The sponsors have no doubt dipped into their sizable reserves to entice world number three Luke Donald and he's the understandable favourite and the man to beat on rankings but even given the record of top-drawer players of late, he makes no appeal.

As mentioned above, jetlag has to be considered an issue. He's tweeted that he won't arrive in Malaysia until Tuesday and I imagine he'll have very little opportunity to familiarise himself with the course.

Second favourite, Charl Schwartzel, is back for more after his 11th placed finish in 2011 and his stuttering sixth 12 months ago. Having not played anywhere last week, he should arrive fresh and raring to go and for my money, he's the man to beat.

His form has dipped fractionally since his sensational end to 2012, when he decimated the opposition in back-to-back annihilations in Thailand and South Africa and he can win again now dropped in grade.

Third favourite, Matteo Manassero, severely hampered his defence 12 months ago with a very slow start, before going on to tie for seventh and we can expect much better this time around. He beat Oosty in a playoff to take the Singapore Open last November, so it's patently obvious that he loves playing in this part of the world and he's most definitely a player to fear this week.

Selection

I have vivid memories of a few near misses here at big odds. Alex Noren, backed at 90.089/1, traded at very near odds-on before wilting in round four two years ago and I was aboard Aphibarnrat at 170.0169/1 the year before, when he finished third. I wouldn't put anyone off either of those two and as stated above, I can see Manassero going really well but I'm just playing one before the off and that's Charl Schwartzel.

I backed the South African when he won both the Thailand Golf Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December and given he arrives fresh after a week off, I fancy he can do me another favour here.

Selection:
Charl Schwartzel @ 7.413/2

I'll be back later with a preview of the PGA Tour event - the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

* You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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19 March 2013

The Punter

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